In the Last Two Years
By Daniel Benitez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — While hundreds of thousands have abandoned Cuba in the last decade, over 13,000 Cuban residents in the United States have requested to be repatriated on the island in the last two years, according to official statistics.
The figures were provided by the Cuban Ambassador to the US, Jose Ramon Cabanas, in an interview published on the Cubadebate website. They are the first figures that have been given about an increasing number of petitions since both governments decided to reestablish relations in December 2014.
The statistics only reflect the number of people who have done this consular red-tape in Washington DC and don’t include those who are currently in the process of being repatriated and are still awaiting approval.
Increase in consular services
Last year, statistics from the Cuban Immigration and Foreign Affairs Department revealed that 9,400 people who had emigrated before the Cuban migration policy reform was implemented in January 2013, returned to Cuba with the objective to settle down in the country permanently. Out of these, 5,000 left and went abroad again.
During the 3rd meeting with Cuban residents in the United States, which took place in Washington last Saturday, the Ambassador explained that up until October 24th this year, they had provided 122,000 consular services more than they had in all of 2015.
Cabanas said that over 250,000 Cubans travel to the island to visit each year and he asked these Cubans to “tell the truth about how the country is changing and making progress.”
With regard to the opening of Cuban consulates in the US, the official said that there is a real need, but he said that the solution will be in the future and will stem from a bilateral agreement.
We don’t want reversion
As is fitting for a diplomatic official, the first Cuban Ambassador to the United States did not say anything about the electoral process that the US is currently experiencing with two very different rivals in terms of their views on Cuba. Hillary is determined to continue the policy that Barack Obama has initiated; Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, is giving a nod to internal opposition on the island and to extremist émigrés, as well as claiming that he would reverse the actual thawing process between the two countries.
Cabanas cautiously stated that “we have reached a point where we don’t want to go back.”
The 2013 Cuban migratory reform authorized residents abroad to request their return and permanent residency in Cuba, at the island’s diplomatic missions or with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MININT), which has opened the way for hundreds of Cubans living abroad to return.
Statistics from the US Homeland Security show that almost half a million Cubans became permanent residents in the US during the period 2000-2014.
Since the announcement that relations would be reestablished between both countries in December, 2014, Cubans began a silent, but steady, exodus from the island. As well as the normal maritime rafter or speed boat route, thousands have tried to reach the Mexican/US border by embarking on a risky journey starting in Ecuador or Guyana, which has recently been the cause of at least two international crises.
Over 115,000 Cubans reached the US at border without a visa, to benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act, since Raul Castro’s government implemented the migration policy reform three years ago. The flow of migrants by sea has also increased since then, with 7,358 Cubans taking this route in the 2016 US fiscal year.